In 2010, Air Force Master Sergeant Eddie Ramos was on the ground in Afghanistan when he received a Red Cross emergency care message — his mother was hospitalized and terminally ill. The heartbreaking news had made its way from a Connecticut hospital to his unit commander halfway around the world. From his remote operating base, Ramos boarded the next helicopter and within 48 hours, he was at his mother’s side halfway around the world.
“At each stop across on this long journey, I was greeted by a team of Red Cross staff that provided both comforting items and words of sympathy,” Ramos said.
Two days later, his mother passed away. Ramos and his six siblings were by her bedside. “I know this could not have happened without the Red Cross network and the staff who support our remote locations. I am forever grateful.”
More than a decade later, Ramos, now retired from the Air Force, is the northwest territory field operations manager for the Red Cross service delivery department. He is one of nearly 1,000 Red Cross employees that are transitioning service members or veterans.
“Following my military service, I sought to work for an organization with a mission I believe in. I wanted to feed my family and my soul. I found what I was looking for at the American Red Cross,” he said.
Career of Valor
Growing up in Connecticut, the youngest of seven children, Ramos says his older sister inspired him when she joined the Air Force. In 1997, he eagerly followed in her footsteps. As a Tactical Air Control Party (TACP), a member of the Air Force Special Warfare unit, Ramos’ role was to provide air support to Army and Marine Units on the ground.
“As a forward air controller, I helped manage the battlefield,” he said. He deployed twice to Kuwait and Iraq and three times to Afghanistan. His military decorations include the Bronze Star.
His last job in the Air Force was based in San Antonio and was a managerial role that trained the next generation of air controllers. He says the Air Force is very technically focused. With each job, you are learning a technical skill. Year after year, you continue to build that knowledge until it's mastered. Every step of the way, you are cultivating leadership skills,” he said.
Defining the Next Chapter
After 20 years of service, Ramos said it was time for him to transition to a job in the civilian sector. Like many veterans, he was not sure what he wanted life after service to look like. While working on his master's degree, he began volunteering with the Red Cross.
“I never forgot how the organization was there for me in my time of need,” he said.
Ramos served as a volunteer services screening team member. Volunteering with the Red Cross has given him a chance to gain more HR experience, helping people who are looking to make a difference in their lives and placing them in job positions that match their skills and preference.
Ramos says that serving in the military at duty stations all over the world taught him how to establish rapport with people from diverse backgrounds. “I bring a bit of worldly experience to the job,” he said.
“I found everyone I met affiliated with the Red Cross was both approachable and committed to one mission and one purpose. Collaboration and teamwork are not just catchwords, but instead reliable behaviors embodied by everyone in the organization,” Ramos said.
Sleeves Up, Hearts Open, All In
Ramos says that public service is a calling and a thread that binds veterans and that veterans thrive at the Red Cross because of their leadership skills and experience. “We are accustomed to prioritizing service over personal gain, giving maximum effort and maintaining professionalism.”
He says, like many veterans, his experience as a warfighter allows him to operate in high-stress situations. “Those are skills that translate to the work we do each day,” he said. “In a world where many leaders are lowering standards in the name of retention, veterans are not afraid to set the bar high and hold team members accountable.”
Ramos says his journey has come full circle. “When I was an airman, the Red Cross helped me. Today, I carry that legacy forward. From advocating for military families and veterans to providing blood, our mission of independent and human service is a driving force. I sleep peacefully knowing my job is quite literally preventing and alleviating human suffering,” he said.